The recent England result against Iceland has brought the worse out in us Scots. It is always easy to gloat when the ‘Auld Enemy’ has such an embarrassing exit from a major championship. This is little consolation for not even being at the party. Another year sitting at home watching quality football from even the smallest of nations. Some will argue that the football is not great. I would beg to differ. The football that is played is not the football we recognise but that is the problem. The game has moved on but we haven’t.
I think our problems go way back. My generation was the last to produce a team to qualify for a major championship. Now, we are nowhere near the level required to do so. Yes, we have a hard working team but where is the genuine class? We are a hard working nation and this is a value we should be proud of. This got us though in years gone by. Now others work just as hard if not even harder but complement it with technical skills and tactical awareness. I recall playing in a tournament in France as an u14 player. We were Celtic BC and we won it convincingly against such sides as Ajax, Milan and Nottingham Forest. One abiding memory is playing Ajax. I remember watching them warming up and doing rondo’s (although they weren’t called that then). We were in a line doing shooting. The game started and they constantly tried to play out from the back and we couldn’t understand this as we just pressed them and scored easily. Why didn’t the keeper just punt it forward like we did? I think we won the game 10-0 and went on to win the tournament. So here’s the rub. I bet some of these players who were encouraged to play out from the back and develop their skills and technique properly went on to become better all round players. Think Ajax and you think player development. Think Celtic and you think Lisbon Lions and the dribbling skills of a Jinky Johnstone; the passing skills of a Bobby Murdoch; or the colossus that was Billy McNeil. Almost 40 years on from the game I played against Ajax youths how would you describe progress in both camps?
So, while the rest of the world was developing players based on skill, technique and tactical nous. We are still in the Dark Ages of playing long balls from the keeper or defenders which are knocked down by the big centre forward for fast forwards to feed off him. This may get you results but won’t get you development at grassroots.
Wake up Scotland!! This is 2016. Technical, tactical modern football means working on all these areas from an early age to develop the good habits required in later stages. Don’t just pick big strong boys who rely on their physical attributes. Develop all boys no matter height and weight to be comfortable on the ball in tight areas; to be good in 1v1 situations and understand space and the developing pictures around them.
I really would like to go to a major championship before it is too late. Do I think I will? I have to be honest and say not yet with the current way we do things. We are a product of our current environment. I don’t see enough people wanting to change that environment for the better yet.
Many thanks to Euro 2016 for sending a strong message back to us.